Washington Two conservative House Republicans joined a liberal Senate Democrat Thursday in introducing legislation that would require employers to notify workers if they're monitoring their electronic communications at work.
Rep. Bob Barr, R-Ga., and Rep. Charles Canady, R-Fla., sponsored the House version of legislation that would force employers to tell employees if they scan or read their e-mail, monitor their computer keystrokes or Web use or eavesdrop on their telephone conversations. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., introduced a companion bill in the Senate.
"We would never stand for it if an employer steamed open an employee's mail, read it and put it back," Schumer said. "It is the same thing with an employee's e-mail.
"This legislation says to employers that if you are monitoring employees' electronic communications, make sure you notify them first."
The American Management Assn. said in an April survey that 73 percent of major U.S. firms record and monitor their employees' phone calls, Internet connections and computer files. One of four companies said they had fired employees for misuse of telecommunication equipment.
The New York Times, for example, fired 22 employees in Virginia last year for passing around potentially offensive e-mails. A month earlier, Xerox Corp. fired 40 workers for spending work time in some cases up to eight hours a day surfing pornographic and shopping sites on the Web.
Under the legislation proposed Thursday, companies that want to monitor e-mail, telephone and Web use would be required to inform employees annually or whenever monitoring policies change.